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BC’s minimum working age being raised to 16

New changes are being made to BC’s employment standards beginning in October.

The new minimum working age in BC is being raised from 12 to 16, which will come into effect on October 15th, allowing employers and children who are already working to adjust to the new requirements.

“Work experience can be a rewarding growth opportunity for young people, but it should never compromise their safety,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “We know that most employers make safety their top priority for all their workers, and these changes clarify what types of employment are age-appropriate for young workers.”

These changes to the Employment Standards Act were introduced in spring of 2019, and more than 1,700 youth, parents and employers were consulted from multiple sectors over the course of the year.

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Youth aged 14 and 15 will be able to do many appropriate jobs, defined as “light work,” with permission from a parent or guardian.

In some cases, children aged 14 and 15 may be permitted to do work outside the definition of ‘light work’ with a permit from the Ministry of Labour’s Employment Standards Branch.

The following is a list of ‘appropriate light work examples for 14 and 15 year-olds’ provided by the BC Government:

  • Recreation and sports club work, such as lifeguard, coach, golf caddy, camp counsellor, referee and umpire;
  • Light farm and yard work, such as gardening, harvesting by hand, clearing leaves and snow, and grass cutting;
  • Administrative and secretarial work;
  • Retail work, such as stocking shelves, packaging orders, laying out displays, sales and cashier;
  • Food service work, such as busing tables, preparing food, dishwashing and serving food and non-alcoholic drinks; and
  • Skilled and technical work, such as computer programmer, visual artists, graphic designer, writer and editor.

According to the province, these new rules do not prevent children from babysitting or delivering newspapers part-time, or students from working in a work-study or work experience class.

As well, the current rules will continue to apply to young performers in recorded and live entertainment.

Children aged 12 and above can continue to be employed in a business or on a farm owned by an immediate family member, as long as the work meets the safety criteria set out in the regulation.

Prior to these changes, BC was the only province in Canada that allowed children as young as 12 to be employed.

According to the province, in some cases, this involved hazardous situations or environments, such as construction sites or heavy-industry settings.

As a result, young workers are injured on the job every year, with WorkSafeBC data reporting more than $1.1 million paid in job-related disability claims for workers 14 or younger between 2007 and 2016.

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